Buffalo Dancer

Buffalo Dancer


Limited, archival quality giclee reproduction. 23" x 19 ½"

In order to understand the topic of the painting, it is necessary to give a short background of the dance. The Sioux Buffalo Dance was a lengthy dance. It had 30 ceremonies and it required 30 days to complete the dance. This was one of the dances which united the bands of the Sioux tribe. Each summer they would come together to hold this medicine men's dance. They used the "circle" for unity: They danced, camped, ate and sat in council in a circle. The Sioux tribe consisted of seven bands, each band slightly different from the others in mannerisms, actions and speech.

These annual meetings were held to keep these major sacred dances the same and to strengthen the unity of the whole Sioux tribe. The straight line construction is a personal concept of expression to gain individuality. The technique derives from the old quill and beadwork and from an old Indian belief that a straight line symbolizes unrelenting truth of righteousness. In quill and beadwork design, only straight horizontal and vertical lines are employed. This technique tends to emphasize the diagonal lines.

The ideational quality of exact representation of the Indian is stressed to reflect the true identity of man as an intellectual being. A refined conception of man's perceptive qualities is conducive to intellectual insight and the abstraction of true realism, realism meaning beauty in the "ugly."

This painting is traditional in technique but original in composition. The introduction of a painted background is a trend away from the convention of two-dimensional Indian painting. The triangular patterns denote the three-point design of the Sioux symbols. One point stands for Earth, one for the sky and one represents the four cardinal points.

The meticulous detail work is observational in purpose: The painting may be seen from a distance for a general impression or it may be observed closely for the study of its parts.

The idea of the painting is to relate foreground with background in composition as well as in meaning of cosmic expression. The rhythmic and orderly patterns in color are expressive of the Indians' poetic and religious concepts of nature. Close harmony with nature is emphasized by formal abstraction as delineated by the solidity of man as he is likened to the solid forms of nature. A ritual yellow is used for the background space. The painting also expresses the time and space concepts of the dance, with its rhythmic relationship by patterns of the third-dimensional movement in space. The detail includes two-dimension as well as three-dimension with contrasts of light and dark areas. So in time each part of the dancer's dress would sway out and away from the body in space. The body movement adds to the rhythmic play of his dress during the ceremonial dance.

The dancer is a medicine man warrior, as shown by his warrior breeches with horizontal stripes. The branches relate nature and animal. Sage is used to wipe perspiration from the face. A wavy line on the arms shows mysticism and the blue line symbolizes peace. The buffalo head and skin symbolize the identity of the medicine man with his totem. The prayer sticks falling from his hand show the completion of the dance.

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